Friday, August 21, 2009

House tigers

Last night, in the drifty state before sleep, I became aware that there was a tiger in my bedroom. He was longer than the bed, magnificent in his beautiful striped suit, staring at me with golden eyes, whiskers a-quiver. I felt a shiver of wild excitement edged with a little fear. This tiger was real, and he was dangerous. Yes, he is "my" tiger - it's no secret that I have a long connection with Tiger, who has been a marvelous ally, not least in soul recovery work - yet he is also his own being. HE is hunting me, and who knows where that will lead tonight? I accepted the invitation to travel with him, into the night. With the morning light, most of our adventures slipped back into the night forest, except for the delicious sensations of stretching and swimming in warm waters in the long, well-muscled body of the big cat that most loves to swim.
-No doubt I set myself up for this by writing and posting my poem "Hunting Power". The little tingle of fear in the hypnagogic zone leads me to add something in prose about what is required to entertain a genuine relationship with a BIG spiritual ally. "Every angel is terrifying," said Rilke. Whether the ally shows itself as the angel or the tiger, we are required to brave up to claim and work our connection. When I first started living in the United States, it was the Bear - the great medicine animal of North America - who required me to brave up: to step into the embrace of something much bigger than me, to recognize that we have a heart connection, and to call in its power for healing for myself and others.
-Animal guardians are not cute symbols to be looked up in books or flaunted as New Age decals. They are living energies, both personal and transpersonal, that need to be celebrated and fed in our bodies and our lives. We know they are true allies when they turn up when we need them and lend us their instincts and sensorium, which operates beyond the merely human range. Shamanic types may have connections with many animal guardians and may work temporary connections with the guardians - active or potential - of those they help. Like shamans, we can encourage animal spirits to take up residence in certain centers of our energy bodies, but they have their own characters and agendas. You can gentle the ferocity of the tiger, but you cannot ignore that it can rip out your throat.
If we cease to nourish and entertain our animal spirits, they go away, and we may experience their loss as fatigue or depression or blurred vision, drugged senses or a failing immune system. I once experimented with going vegetarian for six weeks. In that period, I visited a zoo with my family. I am usually very restive around the big cat enclosures even when - as in this case - the space is fairly generous, because big cats don't belong in captivity. We came to an enclosure where a family of tigers were lazing in the sun. My daughter clutched my arm. "Daddy, he's looking at you." The male tiger was now sitting up, staring at me in intently. He loped to the bars and examined me at close range. I had the keen sensation that he was trying to figure out whether I was family. He sniffed me then gave the tiger version of a shrug, and padded back to his pride, rolled over and went back to sleep. I was obviously not a member of the tribe of tiger that day. Tigers are not vegetarians. If you think you have a tiger connection and dine on tofu, forget it.
-When I reverted to meat-eating, Tiger returned. His reappearance then was as startling and just-so as his manifestation in my bedroom last night. But that time he required me to brave up all the way to resume our relationship. I had to fight him, hand to paw, for what seemed like hours. I had to let him tear me limb from limb. When I was magically reassembled, I had to follow his instructions to tear out and consume his bleeding heart. This did not feel like a symbolic event. In the morning, I had to wash crusted blood from around my mouth.
I will say for the tiger what the children say of Aslan: "He is terrible and he is good." Children love the tiger, who may jump from their stories as Tigger or Shia Khan, the maneater. They know that Tiger can protect them when adults do not. Our own lost children - the child selves lost to pain and abuse and grief and shame - sometimes return to us when Tiger appears to let them know it's safe.
Hmmm. Now I am remembering a night of dream adventures in exotic landscapes many years ago. In the last scene, I was lazing on a chaise-longue in an upstairs room, enjoying a gentle breeze wafting through the slats of wooden shutters. I jumped down and prowled the spacious room, among rattan furniture and Eastern bronzes. I heard the clatter of hurrying footsteps on the stairs, and saw men in strange wooden armor, with spiky protrusions. They entered the room with caution, fanning out, long poles in their hands. After waking, I recalled that I had seen a photo of park rangers in Bengal wearing wooden armor of this kind when endeavoring to drive tigers back within prescribed boundaries. And I wondered what form my dream self had taken that night....


Unknown said...


Your post recalled to me a potent dream in which I was shown a chained up bear and tiger, side by side, their forepaws shackled to a wall as they were forced to stand on their hind legs (they were both enormously tall!) A voice told me: "you will not get better until you unchain them." I awoke in a cold sweat. I had incubated a dream about my chronic illness, and was hoping for some simple instruction to take some herbs or something . . . so much for easy fixes!

This, significantly, was my first bear dream (that I could remember) despite the fact that I dream of animals all the time, from frogs to buffalo. (The latest was a koala, of all things!) I don't remember having dreamed of Tiger before either, but I did have a small plastic tiger that was one of my favorite playthings as a child, during a time in which I felt very lonely and unsafe.

In the dream I was afraid to approach the animals to help them so I guess you're right about "braving up" being necessary to work with these energies.

Unknown said...

Whoops, meant to sign last post as Lisa C.

Robert Moss said...

Dear Lisa - Thanks for sharing. I think the voioe in your dream was right: we do need to unchain (and then learn how to work with, warmly, kindly and sagely) the animal spirits that will help us to recognize and follow the natural paths of our energy and healing.

Anonymous said...

I recently had a dream in which I found myself in a sort of "room" (in quotes because this room must have been quite large) which seemed to be set up as some sort of zoo-like habitat. There were plants all around - including many tree-trunks set up horizontally (again, much as in zoos). There were some people outside the room, looking in (I think there were many large windows), but I have no idea who they were and had only a hazy impression/awareness of them.

Almost immediately I became aware that there were other creatures besides me in this "room", or enclosure: a jaguar, an anaconda (quite terrifyingly large) and...a TIGER.

I climbed up into the tree limbs in an attempt at keeping myself beyond notice of the cats (hah!) and out of reach of the snake. I was doing my best to hide. The jaguar however I soon found was up there with me, so I did my best to make friends with it, sort of taking refuge from the other two. I began stroking the amazingly soft, silky fur of this smaller, more approachable of the two cats.

Before this, as I was climbing into the haven of the trees, I looked back to see where the tiger was, and my blood froze (but actually maybe in a good way?!?!) as I found it looking STRAIGHT AT ME. Our eyes met and it still gives me shivers to think of it.

That cat definitely SAW me.

That's when I took refuge with the Jaguar.

And that's about where the dream ended.

So my big question is, WHAT DO I DO NOW? I feel like I've been given an opportunity to do or learn SOMETHING, but as usual, don't really have the foggiest idea of what is expected of me. How do I bring the energy of this dream into my life? Somehow I feel very honored.

Any suggestions?


Robert Moss said...

Hi Ginta - Thanks for this very exciting dream report, which (for me) speaks directly to the theme that we need to brave up to claim the power that is hunting us. If this were my dream, I would want to connect consciously with the jaguar and seek its guidance and protection in approaching what else is waiting for me.

As foe the zoo theme, I am reminded of a dream of my own in which another big cat (the lion, this time) told me in his growly voice, "It's only humans who choose to live in cages."

Diana said...


Last night I participated in Zakr on a densely forested mountain top in New Lebanon, NY. As I became engrossed in this Sufi celebration full of music and dancing, I became aware of subtle, powerful, wise energies taking an interest in our activities and intentions. Of note was the continuous presence of a very large gray and white tiger prowling the outskirts of the circles of 80 or more people and sometimes sitting and quietly observing.
I hoped she would later visit my dreams. Although she did not, I was delighted and awed by her company that evening.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Diane - How thrilling to encounter a tiger in the Berkshires! I wonder whether it grew from a group energy that was developing within and around that Sufi ceremony. As we have seen in other contexts, a group energy can take a distinctive form. This may happen spontaneously or through conscious shaping.

Diana said...

I think you "hit the nail on the head". In retrospect that is exactly how it felt - like the tiger was immerging from the group's energy, movements and sounds. Very wonderful, indeed!

Karolyn said...

I had a chuckle today when I was leaving a massage therapist's office after one of the most profound bodywork sessions I have ever had. I was trying Thai-style massage ( which is done fully clothed and feels like someone is stretching you from limb to limb!) In any case I was surprised because I thought I was going in to get the kinks out of my back and I ended up releasing large chunks of stored childhood grief and fear.

When I was leaving the office I saw 2 pictures of tigers on the wall I had not noticed going in. That's when I remembered this post and decided to re-read it. So imagine my delight when I read your words Robert "Our own lost children - the child selves lost to pain and abuse and grief and shame - sometimes return to us when Tiger appears to let them know it's safe." Which is exactly what happened! Thanks Tigers! And BTW I feel Gggggrrreeat!

Robert Moss said...

Grrreat to hear about this happy session and the tiger sighting, dear Karolyn. The tiger is a very important ally of shamans in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia. The tiger I encountered in the zoo was from nearby Sumatra. I write about the importance of the tiger in Southeast Asian shamanism in "Conscious Dreaming". The tiger power songs of dreaming peoples of this region - like the Senoi-Temiar of the Malaysian rainforest - are memorable!

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.